Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Urbanisation (2) – mental health

23 May 2016


I have just added a new label to my 500+ blogs: Urbanisation. Actually, urbanisation is a topic of which I’m afraid that we largely underestimate its consequences. Urbanisation has an impact on climate change, crime rates, fertility rates(mental) health, housing prices (wealth inequality), politics, pollution, public services, social structures, technology and obviously work (jobs). The mental health issue was mentioned in a 20 May 2016 Scientific American article.

This topic has only been on my mind since a 2015 FT article by Ivo Daalder, called “A new global order of cities”, in which I noticed a shocking statement: “For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, 6.5bn people, two-thirds of all humanity, will live and work in cities. In 1950 fewer than one billion did so.” I suppose this 2014 U.N. report may have been his source.

Evolutionary psychologists claim that the Savanna Principle still rules ourhuman firmware. Any city is abundant of artificial lights and sounds. Our minds only recognise natural lights and sounds. Any deviation triggers a primal human emotion: fear. I suspect that this fear is the linking pin between the studies on urbanisation and mental health. 

Scientific American: “Researchers first suggested in the 1930s that urban living might increase schizophrenia risk. Since then many large epidemiological studies have reported an association between the two, primarily in European countries such as Sweden and Denmark. Converging evidence has revealed that growing up in the city doubles the risk of developing psychosis later in life. Studies have also begun to find that urban environments may heighten the risk of other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety”.

The opposite is also true as we humans still visit nature to find peace of mind and tranquility. A 2012 study presented to the British Psychological Society “found that all outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings (enjoyment, calmness, refreshment), but that visits to the coast were most beneficial and visits to urban parks least beneficial”. BBC: “[this] could reflect an “innate preference” for the sights and sounds of water”. Live Science on that same study: “The age-old wisdom that being near the seaside is good for your health may be true, studies suggest”.

It’s interesting that many Sci-Fi movies have urbanisation as an implicit and underlying theme. Rural living is clearly the exception in those movies. Unfortunately, those movies also picture a very unpleasant future for humans and largely due to urbanisation (eg, ElysiumRoboCop, Soylent Green, Terminator). I also noticed an interesting 2014 article about this same link.

When I grew up in my rural village in the 1960s and 70s, I never ever heard of an “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or its related medicine Ritalin. Some kids were just more active than others. What’s new? Today, ADHD seems “common”.

Urbanisation is treated like a fact of life rather than a threat or an immediate danger. I am genuinely afraid this is a classic error in human judgment. The only solution is to bring back jobs to rural areas.

Genesis – (Second) Home by the Sea (1983) – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Help us someone, let us out of here

living here so long undisturbed

dreaming of the time we were free

so many years ago

before the time when we first heard

welcome to the Home by the Sea


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